Special Report: Technology Opening Doors for Disabled


NORFOLK, Va (WAVY) —  Imagine what it would be like if you couldn’t even change the channel on your television without help.

New technology is giving a Norfolk man power beyond what he once thought possible.

“I cannot move my limbs, extremities hardly at all. I’m not paralyzed, I can feel they just don’t move,” said Jesse Monroe.

His whole life, Monroe has had someone at arms reach 24-7, just in case.

“You just feel trapped and don’t feel like you have much control over your life,” he said.

Then along came two women — Alexa and her Google Home counterpart.

Jesse uses one system to work simple technology. For instance, turning lights off and on. The other system is used for more specific tasks, including opening the door and changing the channel on his television set.

It costs $10,000 for the technology and another $6,000 for modifications to his apartment.

It’s far less than the cost for constant care says Susan Henderson, Team Support Director at Hope House. “So, in a one-year time period it saves over $200,000.”

Hope House is a non-profit in Norfolk that helps people with disabilities live independently.

“The cost savings is astronomical. Multiply that by 10, 20, 30 years 40 years the cost savings is unbelievable,” Henderson said.

Perhaps just as unbelievable are the hoops they had to jump through to make this possible.

“So even though on paper there’s funding in reality, there isn’t,” Monroe explained. “He can’t just go online and buy what he needs, it has to be approved by the state first.”

He also needed a technology expert to set it all up and Medicaid has no authorized dealers for that.

“I don’t understand that situation, doesn’t make sense,” Monroe said.

So, why is it so difficult? 10 On Your Side talked with Delegate Stephen Heretick, who said, “It’s really frustrating to hear about the red tape.”

Heretick said he wants to cut through the red tape. “I think sometimes the government, the bureaucracy is a little bit late on the draw in catching up with these transitions. It’s something I plan to be working on rather aggressively

to help folks like Jesse.”

Jesse is enjoying his newfound freedom because of generous donations from his brother, Hope House and grant money, but he knows there are so many others who could benefit from the technology that’s allowing Jesse to literally open doors to a whole new world of possibilities

“I’d like to maybe have a relationship… I haven’t done that yet but I’m working on that.”

Monroe still requires hands-on help for eating, bathing and some other tasks. The whole process to move him into an apartment took about a year because of all the red tape.

Hope House is advocating for the state to streamline the process and make it more user-friendly so more people like Jesse can get the help they need and save taxpayers money.

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